5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar rap findings from the past two weeks, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
This week’s 5 On It marks a little bit of a change of pace. In the interest of keeping the quality high and giving more attention to the entries in each edition, 5 On It will be published biweekly going forward. Same great taste, fewer calories.
Neff The Skywalker ft. Jules Born – “Distortion”
Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a songwriter about the choice many songwriters are making currently to write “dark” songs to submit to major label artists for their projects. We agreed that it seemed a bit overwrought—that a sense in the wind said we’ve tapped into that well a bit much in the last few years and now it’s time for something a bit sunnier.
I drove home some hours after this conversation listening to Future’s Dirty Sprite 2, an album as bleakly hedonistic and devoid of intentional humor as any to come along in the last few years—and as simultaneously celebratory, a soundtrack for parties, drunken Uber rides, and all sorts of debauchery, real or imagined. Though I’ve tried not to project too much meaning onto DS2, I’ve read it as a sort of corollary to Kendrick’s brand of “conscious” rap, an acknowledgment that the world is cruelly random, life is nasty, brutish, and short, and we’d better seize whatever’s ours while we can. It’s a dark philosophy, almost embarrassingly so, but one that, I imagine, is phenomenally liberating—call it purple existentialism.
Whether directly influenced by Future or not, many hip-hop artists are making darker music, descending deeper into hedonism and lusty, drug-fueled abandon. Songs like Virginia rapper Neff The Skywalker’s “Distortion” feels like a transmission from this particular void, replete with a washed out chorus and a eerie, beautiful beat. Like Future’s star-turn album, “Distortion” hints at an understanding that we must make of this life what we will.
Tylisha Haskins – “TH :)”
Washington, D.C.’s Tylisha Haskins raps in a way that feels born of the late ’90s/early 2000s experimental void, the land before SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and dime-a-dozen weirdo rap. Nimble and measured with his rhymes, Haskins builds from an opening George Carlin diatribe about religion to lyrics that bounce between Voltaire, stealing your sister, doing acid, and the joys of cursing. It’s a low-key, freely associative ride that never forgets “experimental” doesn’t have to mean “serious.”
For more stoned, stream of consciousness fun, check out Haskins’ latest single “All Aboard.”
Nolan The Ninja – “clockers.”
I am not fully convinced that this isn’t an unreleased Onyx song. I don’t care what it is. I’m probably gonna learn to box to this or break a light bulb over my head when no one’s around so I can pretend to be tough and then start crying shortly thereafter.
in other words, this is great music to get robbed to in an alternate universe where all events are accompanied by specific soundtracks and I am music supervisor. If you need a new rapper to get you amped up this weekend, explore Nolan The Ninja’s SoundCloud.
As a bonus, listen to “OB4LN” below and please do not commit any acts of violence this weekend. Thanks.
Adamn Killa – “Grow Up” and “Sorry”
These days, hip-hop is probably the loosest genre tag around. It spells out very little in a post-Bladee and Chief Keef world, with so many artists exploring the outer fringes of the genre with reckless abandon. Ignoring all the rules is the new playing by the rules, with very few seem keen to repeat what’s already come before. Enter Adamn Killa, a budding cult-figure of sorts from Chicago. Adamn Killa’s depressive mumble-flow recalls the previously mentioned Bladee and in some cases Chicago’s own Chief Keef, but he’s distinctively a whole lot weirder than either artist, pushing both of their styles further into the avant-garde.
His songs frequently lack structure, and occasionally direction, but that’s perhaps his strongest asset as a musician. On “Grow Up” he raps as profound as depression feels, and on “Sorry” he hooks into a low-key hypnotic flow over some delightfully squelchy production from P&P favorite Blank Body. Both tracks sound super-polished and thrown-together at once, using his own voice as more of a textural instrument than a tool for storytelling purposes. What makes his music appealing won’t be obvious to many, but it’s sure to click with the few that can connect with his distinctive peculiarities. – Joe Price
BANKX – “No Scrubs”
Though he’s yet to release a true signature song, 17-year-old Milwaukee rapper BANKX has shown a consistent knack for catchy, melodic rapping and excellent beat selection. “No Scrubs” feels like his most fully realized vision to date (a sentence that feels almost laughable to write, since he started sharing his music at 16 years old and only recently turned 17).
As a bonus, listen to the latest episode of Song Exploder in which Joey Badass and Kirk Knight discuss the making of the song “Hazeus View.”